When I published my review for the first Expendables, people were stunned by how much I enjoyed it. Was it good? Good no. Was it perfect in that trashy action way? Bet your ass. So in the wake of The Expendables 2, here’s a list of 10 action flicks that I absolutely adore. The possibilities here are endless, so please feel free to share your favorites in the comments!
The Running Man (1987)
An American television network airs a reality show about criminals who are being hunted by professional killers. But when Arnold Schwarzenegger is forced to play, the killers and studio executives alike get the unwilling participant they never… saw…coming.
Everytime I watch this movie, I’m reminded further of just how bad it is. But I also find myself loving it even more. Arguably my favorite Arnold performance of all time.
The Last Boy Scout (1991)
From its first scene, in which a professional football player shoots three members of the opposing team… in the middle of a game, we know that Tony Scott’s complete action romp will be nothing but trashy bliss.
Dig this plot: A mad-at-life private dick (Bruce Willis), teams with a disgraced ex-football star (Damon Wayans) to hunt the killer of Wayans’ stripper girlfriend (Halle Berry). I mean, I could explain more here, but do I really need to?
Following one of the best, most holy-shit-I-didn’t-see-that-coming movie beginnings ever, Cliffhanger doesn’t do a thing to disappoint. Stallone at his most remorseful, stoners jumping off cliffs, John Lithgow’s accent, Leon in a cave, night vision chases, bats, and, of course, a genuinely jaw dropping stunt in which people zip line from one plane to another without the use of special effects. Cliffhanger has it all and then some. Action trashy at its absolute finest.
Last Action Hero (1993)
Yeah, I love the hell out of Last Action Hero. A movie about a movie-obsessed kid who is given a magic ticket that actually puts him inside the movies. Needless to say, this flick was a tent pole of my childhood. There was (ummm, is) no limit to the envy I had for that fumbling, idiotic main character. The kid got to meet his heroes and affect change within the films he loved. Mix in a never hammier Schwarzenegger, a terrifying Tom Noonan, and a fantastic ending that pits the characters alongside with the actors playing them, and you’ve got sheer joy.
I also need to note that Last Action Hero, along with Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, were my first introductions to the films of Ingmar Bergman. So, you see, it’s worthy after all.
Surviving the Game (1994)
A handful of rich, yuppie, mostly white dudes (including Rutger Hauer, Gary Busey and F. Murray Abraham) pay a homeless black guy (Ice-T) to go hunting with them. Problem is, after a pleasant night of drinking and storytelling, Ice-T wakes up only to discover that he’s the one being hunted. The yuppies give him a bit of a head start, and what follows is pure ridiculous fun.
Surviving the Game is on Netflix Instant, and if I said that I wasn’t watching it while writing this post, then I’d be lying. It’s just… perfect.
Denzel Washington plays a disgraced cop who is tasked with hunting down a madman digital entity (Russell Crowe, having a blast), who has… escaped from a virtual world. To add to the trash: everytime Crowe’s character gets hurt, he can recharge himself by externally ingesting… glass.
Escape from L.A. (1996)
Snake Plissken is back for this impossibly trashy, and completely unnecessarily sequel to Escape from New York. This time, Snake is told by the President that if he infiltrates a criminally-invested Los Angeles and recovers a weapon that can kill electricity, then all of Snake’s crimes will be pardoned. But when a movie has city surfing, holograms, and a simply thrilling basketball sequence, who can possibly care about plot?
Con Air (1997)
After winning a well-deserved Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas, Nicolas Cage sold out in the best possible way, starring in an epic hat trick of action thrillers. The Rock and Face/Off could easily make this list as well, but Con Air has to take the cake as the most absurdly fun of the three.
Putting all of the world’s most terrifying criminals on one plane (led by a never-more-psychopathic John Malkovich), only to have them take it over, is recipe for the best that trashy cinema has to offer. Don’t move or the bunny gets it.
If I haven’t made it clear already, I genuinely enjoy every single film on this list. I appreciate that, in the grand scheme of things, they add nothing to the global encyclopedia of cinematic wonderment, but I love them all the same. Just watch the intro to Swordfish, in which, in a thrilling, albeit completely digital, 360 shot, the bad guys blow up dozens of innocent people because the good guys broke the rules.
There’s also a chase scene in this film, in which a famous computer hacker (Hugh Jackman) is pursued down a very long, very dirty, very bumpy hill by a detective (Don Cheadle), that really makes me appreciate the film as a whole unabashedly.
Punisher: War Zone (2008)
I think more people die in the first 10 minutes of Punisher: War Zone than in most action films put together. It’s loud, mean, bloody and balls nuts. There’s something to be said for a movie that acknowledges what it is right away, and owns it for the duration. This Punisher has no qualms admitting that it is batshit crazy, which is something I find refreshing amongst a genre full of films that pretend to be more than they are.
Now for the fun part, let’s hear your favorite trashy action films. ReadySetGo.